- Billy Graham near death, ‘close to going home to be with the Lord’
- SeaTac, Wash.: City’s new $15 minimum wage heads to court
- Obama mulls support for Islamists in Syria, with conditions
- Obama ‘birther’ theories float, as Hawaii health director killed in crash
- U.S. drone faulted for killing 14 ‘innocent civilians’ at Yemen wedding
- GOP hopes taking shutdown off the table with budget deal will pay dividends
- Chinese Death Star: The moon cited as the perfect launch pad for ballistic missiles
- Help wanted: Homeland Security plagued by vacancies at the top
- We are not amused: Queen’s protection officers warned to keep ‘sticky fingers’ off the royal cashews
- Unleash the crossbows: Gov. Scott Walker creates new hunting season
Central African Republic president seeks foreign help against rebels
BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) — The president of Central African Republic on Thursday urgently called on France and other foreign powers to help his government fend off rebels who are quickly seizing territory and approaching this capital city, but French officials declined to offer any military assistance, and there was no immediate sign outside nations would intervene.
The developments suggest Central African Republic could be on the brink of another violent change in government, something not new in the history of this resource-rich yet impoverished country. The current president, Francois Bozize, himself came to power a decade ago in the wake of a rebellion.
Speaking to crowds in Bangui, a city of some 600,000, Mr. Bozize pleaded with foreign powers to do what they could. He pointed in particular to France, Central African Republic's former colonial ruler. About 200 French soldiers are already in the country to provide technical support and to help to train the local army, according to the French Defense Ministry.
"France has the means to stop (the rebels) but unfortunately they have done nothing for us until now," Bozize said.
French President Francois Hollande said Thursday that France wants to protect its interests in Central African Republic and not Mr. Bozize's government. The comments came a day after dozens of protesters, angry about a lack of help against rebel forces, threw rocks at the French Embassy in Bangui.
Paris is encouraging peace talks between the government and the rebels, with the French Foreign Ministry noting in a statement that negotiations are due to "begin shortly in Libreville (Gabon)." It was not immediately clear what, if any, dates have been set for those talks, however.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, meanwhile, spoke via phone with Mr. Bozize, asking the president to take responsibility for the safety of French nationals and diplomatic missions in Central African Republic.
Central African Republic has suffered decades of army revolts, coups and rebellions since gaining independence in 1960. The rebels behind the most recent instability signed a 2007 peace accord allowing them to join the regular army, but insurgent leaders say the deal wasn't fully implemented.
The rebel Union for the Democratic Forces for Unity, known by its French acronym of UFDR, claims its attacks are justified in light of the "thirst for justice, for peace, for security and for economic development of the people of Central African Republic."
Already, the rebel forces have seized at least 10 towns across the sparsely populated north of the country, and residents in the capital now fear the insurgents could attack at any time, despite assurances by rebel leaders that they are willing to engage in dialogue instead of attacking Bangui.
Despite Central African Republic's wealth of gold, diamonds, timber and uranium, the government remains perpetually cash-strapped. Filip Hilgert, a researcher with the Belgium-based International Peace Information Service, said rebel groups are unhappy because they feel the government doesn't invest in their areas.
"The main thing they say is that the north of the country, and especially in their case the northeast, has always been neglected by the central government in all ways," he said.
But the rebels also are demanding that the government make payments to ex-combatants, suggesting that their motives may also be for personal financial gain.
Mr. Bozize, a former military commander, came to power in a 2003 rebel war that ousted his predecessor, Ange-Felix Patasse. In his address Thursday, Mr. Bozize said he remained open to dialogue with the rebels, but he also accused them and their allies of financial greed.
Those allies, he implied, are outside Central African Republic.
"For me, there are individuals who are being manipulated by an outside hand, dreaming of exploiting the rich Central African Republic soil," he said. "They want only to stop us from benefiting from our oil, our diamonds, our uranium and our gold."
• Associated Press writers Krista Larson in Dakar, Senegal, and Sarah DiLorenzo in Paris contributed to this article.
By Mangosuthu Buthelezi
Memories of a long brotherhood tempered in common struggle
- House budget bargain faces Senate filibuster; Republicans line up to oppose
- Obama's Afghanistan experts stumped on U.S. death toll, war costs during hearing
- Broncos-Chargers game ends with several stabbings
- NAPOLITANO: A conspiracy so vast
- American missing in Iran was CIA operative who went rogue
- Obama birther theories float, as Hawaii health director killed in crash
- Kim Jong-un consolidating power or losing grip on North Korea's military
- Obama takes 'selfie' at Mandela's funeral service
- PRUDEN: The last living witnesses; they wore the yellow star and remember the Nazi terror
- KEENE: James Clapper should resign for lying to Congress
Independent voices from the The Washington Times Communities
Consummate traveler Todd DeFeo explores the unique stories that make destinations worth going to.
Covering the world of soccer, including the World Cup, Major League Soccer, D.C. United and the English Premier League and other interesting sporting events.
Born in 1930 in rural Missouri, Charles Vandegriffe, Sr., brings his time and place to the Communities.
Columns from Voices around the World talking about the events, people, politics and social issues that concern us wherever, and whoever, we are.
Extraordinary day at Redskins Park
White House pets gone wild!
Let it snow